Discover more from Pirate Wires
Rocket Man Bad
morning report #2 // the twitter vibe shift that only lives inside our hearts (is still unfortunately a shift); kind of enormous UFO story; apple's new headset (meh (market agrees)); clown links
MORNING REPORT: The Media’s trans DeSantis antivaxxer meltdown (whatever, it’s all just noise at this point), and the Daily Caller clutches pearls as Elon’s Twitter vibe shift matures. Then, jump below the lead for this week’s top deals; Apple’s new AR headset; an actually very wild UFO whistleblower case (recovered alien aircraft); a handful of tech legal battles; and clown links.
Buckle up, baby, it’s a Twitter vibe shift. Good morning, here is a brief selection of media outlets that have declared Twitter an extremist right-wing platform: the Guardian, Mashable, New York Magazine, the Atlantic, Salon, Vanity Fair, NBC, the New York Times (though, notably, more cautious than the rest), and the Washington Post.
As no major left wing writers, influencers, or politicians have been banned under Musk’s dictatorship for their beliefs, a common practice almost exclusively targeting right wing voices in the years before his takeover, the media’s argument reduces to something like ‘the very existence of right wing voices in a public square makes the square right wing, and should be stopped.’ While this of course says more about the media’s rapid value shift from free speech fundamentalism to unapologetic authoritarianism than it does about Elon, Twitter’s new king does have a perspective, which he does freely, consistently, and very loudly offer, and that does kind of matter. Such openness is new in a platform leader, and it would be dishonest to pretend the daily drama of Elon’s opinions hasn’t shaped the overall platform vibe. Now, does that vibe matter? Friends, we are living in the age of the transsexual Bud Light apocalypse. All of this dumb shit matters.
Yesterday, Elon appeared on Twitter Spaces with the Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., in a conversation moderated by David Sacks. Structurally, it was similar to what we saw two weeks ago with Ron DeSantis, who announced his run for president on the platform — which itself triggered most of the hysterical reporting cited at the top of this story. In terms of content, however, the Kennedy conversation was longer, less compelling for a stretch, and then finally (sorry, kids) a little bit crazy.
First, and superficially, Kennedy’s voice was gnarled, as if a lifelong smoker on his deathbed, which honestly just made for an unpleasant listening experience. Then, in terms of substance, roughly half the conversation was dominated by the abstract concept of free speech, rather than any of Kennedy’s positions. There was also a great deal of Kennedy, an obvious fan of Elon’s, questioning Elon? Around 45 minutes in, Sacks got us to the candidate’s platform, kind of, and other guests — including Tulsi Gabbard — teased out the candidate’s positions on immigration (close the border), war (hate it), Pfizer (literally go to jail), China (let’s be friends), Covid (was a bioweapon probably), Ukrainian labs (probably did Covid, while we’re on the subject), the war (Russia will win), nuclear power (against, for various stupid reasons), and mass shootings (psychiatric medicine likely responsible (!)). This is really not the candidate for me, but in terms of Twitter’s vibe shift the more interesting thing is less the content than it is this conversation even happened.
Elon is not just running a content platform, Elon is the daily star creator of his platform, which means we know more about his opinions than any other platform leader in tech history. When he offers his perspective in political conversations, his positions are taken as the platform’s positions, and often, given the nature of amplification on social media, it’s hard to argue that they’re not.
Last week, after the Daily Wire was invited to post on Twitter, and ads were sold in this regard, the conservative media company was blocked from unencumbered streaming of the very film they’d come to promote — the controversial movie What is a Woman, which generally takes apart the entire concept of transgenderism. The Daily Wire reacted to the insult as the Daily Wire reacts to every insult, which is to say breathlessly, self-righteously, and publicly. Elon intervened, also publicly, and the content moderator responsible for the insult “resigned,” but we all know what that means. Critically, the entire episode massively amplified the Daily Wire’s reach, which Elon himself alluded to, and so the movie has been trending for days. In this way, the company’s most important representative publicly selected a featured piece of content, just as he’s done with each political Twitter Space. That’s curation, and as with galleries, papers, and musical venues, curation defines a cultural product.
Is it fair to say Twitter is an “extremist right wing platform”? Of course not. But vibes are the realm of perception, not facts, and in this regard Elon has given the media everything it needs to scare the sheeple (advertising execs). On the bright side, we’ve never had a platform leader give so few shits before, which means we really don’t know how the experiment will end. Will Elon break the wheel? I think there’s a chance. But there’s one thing I know for sure: when that ending does arrive, we’ll know what Elon thinks about it.
→ Attacks accelerate
Center for “Countering Digital Hate” claims Twitter not removing “hateful content” by paid users (Axios)
Senator Warren threatens Twitter following departure of Daily Caller censors (ABC)
European Union charges forward with new ‘yay censorship’ laws, vows review of Twitter “content moderation” policies; Elon vows to publish all further censorship requests (lol) (WSJ) (European Conservative)
Drako Motors is building a hyper-luxury 2,000-hp electric supercar. The San Jose-based company raises a $100M round from investors including GV, Kleiner Perkins, and Bessemer.
Predibase is creating a platform to simplify the process of training, finetuning and deploying ML models with minimal code required. The SF-based company raises a $28.45M series A led by Greylock and Felicis.
Cortex is an internal developer portal that “helps developer teams drive best practices,” with a focus on microservices. The SF-based company raises a $35M series B in a deal led by IVP, valuing the company at $260M pre-money. Sequoia, Tiger Global, Craft, and YC also participated in the round.
Galvanick is building a platform to help protect industrial infrastructure against cyber attacks. The LA-based company raises a $10M seed from a group of investors including MaC Venture Capital, Founders Fund, and Village Global.
Korbit Technologies bills itself as an “AI mentor for software engineering.” The Montreal-based company raises $8.4M in a deal led by Khosla Ventures.
Windborne Systems operates a constellation of long-duration weather balloons to collect climate data that it sells to customers such as NOAA and the USAF. The Palo Alto-based company raises an $8.36M seed from several investors including Khosla Ventures.
CreditGenie is a fintech focused on “behavioral finance” by offering cash advances, tools to get out of debt, and spending insights. The Philadelphia-based company raises a $4M series A in a deal led by Tippet Venture Partners and Khosla.
Squint is developing a mobile-based platform to optimize factory procedures —training, ops, maintenance, safety, and QA — with the help of AR. The San Jose-based company raises a $3.5M seed led by Sequoia.
UpdateAI is building AI-powered software to make customer teams more efficient. The Pasadena-based company raises a $2.3M series A led by Idealabx with participation from a16z, Zoom Ventures, Stage Venture Partners, and Howard Morgan.
→ Other notable investments
Strive Health | $166M series C | CVS Health Ventures, NEA & others
The company offers improved chronic kidney disease care, aiming to identify and treat patients before dialysis is needed.
Sana Labs | $62M series B | Menlo, NEA, & others
The company is building an enterprise learning & knowledge platform personalized to the user and powered, of course, by AI.
Carrum Health | $45M series B | OMERS Growth Equity, Tiger Global & others
The employer-to-employee healthcare platform negotiates directly with healthcare providers to offer better prices on surgical care and cancer treatment.
MindsDB | $41.5M series A | Mayfield People First, Benchmark & others
The developer of “a cloud for serving artificial intelligence logic” was founded in 2017 and graduated from YC’s Winter 2020 Batch.
VisionPro, Apple’s AR/VR headset, makes long-awaited debut. “You browse the system simply by looking… tap your fingers together to select, flick to scroll.” On Monday, Tim Cook and Apple unveiled their highly anticipated computing headset, dubbed VisionPro, which you control with your eyes, hands, and voice. The device is essentially an AR MacBook, but the “AR” part lends the tech some very evocative features. For example, you can immerse yourself in an environment while watching a movie — Netflix and chill with your partner, for example, but do it on the moon. Set up your workspace “in” the headset, and it’ll feel like you’re Tom Cruise in Minority Report. And when you're FaceTiming using the headset, Apple uses a scan to display a live, animated avatar of your face to whoever you're speaking with. The front of the goggle-like device is a single pane of curved glass. It'll be available for $3,499 in Apple Stores next year (which the stock market didn’t like). Watch the official commercial here.
Other notable announcements at WWDC: a 15'' MacBook Air, starting at $1,299, is now available to order; also, the company has made several enhancements to the iOS messaging and communication suite, such as video voicemails, transcribed audio messages, and, at long last, autocorrect’s new ability to learn the word "fuck."
Meta drops new VR headset ahead of Apple’s big reveal. Who is Zuckerberg not competing with? I swear to gd he wakes up every morning looking for a fight. Jiu jitsu — changes a man! (Axios)
Meta workers back to office three days a week starting in September (WSJ)
Amazon workers stage walkout in protest of “return-to-office mandate” (aka you’ve gotta come to work to keep your job) (Twitter)
Amazon mobile phone service rumors cause telecom stock tumble (WSJ)
YouTube reverses “misinformation” policy, once again allows “U.S. election denialism” (Axios)
JP Morgan reeling to correct Zelle’s double payment errors (WSJ)
Spotify lays of 200 workers, mostly in podcasting group (WSJ)
Reddit communities to go dark in protest of API pricing policy (The Verge)
Ethereum staking sees biggest month of all time in May (Axios)
Boeing, NASA delay Starliner capsule launch until at least the fall (NYT)
→ Legal Battles
Meta goes to war over CA Journalism Preservation Act. The bill would impose a tax on companies like Meta and Google based on advertising revenue generated from hosting links to news content (insane). Proceeds from the tax would be distributed to CA-based newsrooms (again: this is really insane!). Lawmakers call the bill essential for preserving local journalism (re: propaganda); Meta calls it “a slush fund that primarily benefits big, out-of-state media companies under the guise of aiding California publishers.” If the bill becomes law, Meta says it will pull news links from Facebook and Instagram in the state (annoying for me personally but lol). A day after they issued that threat, the CA State Assembly passed the bill. It now awaits a decision from the Senate. (Axios)
Judge dismisses D.C.’s deceptive data sharing lawsuit against Meta. The lawsuit alleged improper sharing of consumer data with third parties, including Cambridge Analytica. The judge concluded Facebook’s privacy policies were transparent about how such parties could gain access to the data in question. (NYT)
SEC sues Binance, alleges illegal crypto exchange operation. Binance isn’t helping its case with this internal text from 2018: “we are operating as a fucking unlicensed securities exchange in the USA bro.” Thoughts and prayers. (WSJ)
Supreme Court rules for Slack in direct listing case. A lot of complicated legal and financial background here, but the takeaway is the future of direct listings seems bleak at best, because investors now officially have no legal recourse in the event a company issues a misleading stock registration statement. (Axios)
Airbnb sues NYC over short-term rental restrictions (AP)
Prominent SPAC executives facing lawsuits after bubble bursts (Bloomberg)
Google ad tech antitrust case sent back to Texas court (Bloomberg)
Is Stability AI overvalued? A deep dive into founder Emad Mostaque’s past depicts a pattern of misleading claims, some of which may have helped Stability AI earn its $1bn valuation. Forbes alleges Mostaque lied about his degree from Oxford, has no background in AI, vastly overstated his role in several AI projects, and falsely claimed Stability had a special deal with Amazon. Also: as Stability delayed payment to employees and faced tax issues in the UK, tens of thousands of British pounds were moved into the personal account of Mostaque’s wife. (Forbes)
ChatGPT is turning copywriters into HVAC specialists. The Washington Post wants you to believe this is a bad thing. (WaPo)
Chatbots losing tons of $$$ (WaPo)
Alibaba rolls out ChatGPT style tech (CNBC)
US in possession of non-human craft, says whistleblower. “A former intelligence official turned whistleblower has given Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General extensive classified information concerning deeply covert programs he says possess retrieved intact and partially intact craft of non-human origin,” opens a potentially explosive, nearly unbelievable scoop published Monday by The Debrief.
Whistleblower David Charles Grush was the National Reconnaissance Office's (NRO) representative to the UAP Taskforce from 2019 to 2021, then the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) co-lead for UAP analysis in 2021 and 2022. In addition to his claim that the US is in possession of “partial fragments through and up to intact vehicles” of non-human origin, Grush apparently has the Department of Defense’s (DoD) express permission to go to the media with the information (???).
The Debrief reporters have independently corroborated Grush’s claims with on-the-record insiders, a number of whom allowed their names and images to be published with the report. The story additionally reports Grush’s assertions that there are elements within several high-level intelligence programs attempting to thwart the release of UAP data to Congress and the public, and that a terrestrial arms race of craft recovery operations is ongoing to find anomalous materials from non-human intelligence that may give the ‘winning’ nation an asymmetrical advantage.
Trump is tired of the word “woke” (Twitter)
Pence won’t be charged in DOJ classified documents investigation (NPR)
Republican majority in Texas votes to impeach AG Ken Paxton (NYT)
Supreme Court finds Minnesota religious college ban unconstitutional (Fox News)
Mississippi’s high school graduation rate soars. This despite ranking 46th nationwide in public school funding per student. Probably has something to do with the fact that they don’t allow students to pass third grade without first passing a basic literacy test. Contrary to popular notions in graduate schools of education, imposing consequences for objectively low academic performance seems to be a good thing (assuming you want children to learn to read, that is). (NYT)
Russia accuses US of cyber espionage. The notoriously spy-happy authoritarian regime has accused the US of hacking thousands of Russian iPhones. Its Federal Security Service claims to have discovered US malware on the phones of Russian nationals and diplomats, including some in Israel and China. Apple has denied any role in the creation of “backdoors,” and the NSA has refused to comment. (Axios)
US, Taiwan sign trade deal (AP)
Chinese warship nearly collides with US destroyer in Taiwan Strait (Global News)
Blinken: no cease fire until Ukraine gains upper-hand (AP)
US sanctions Iranian firm for helping government censor internet (Reuters)
Ireland gears up for 200,000-cow slaughter in effort to meet climate goals. Elon captured popular sentiment in a blunt statement: “this really needs to stop. Killing some cows doesn’t matter for climate change.” (The Telegraph) (Fox)
Science journalist thinks she’ll die of Covid if she waits in line. Erin Biba, a NYC-based science journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Scientific American and National Geographic, among others, posted a thread on Sunday complaining that when she took her cat to the veterinarian she was stuck “in a tiny waiting room with 50 people and no ventilation or masks.” After telling the receptionist “this is high risk and very dangerous to me,” she was allowed to cut the line. Another customer was mad about this, which Biba found unacceptable to the point she was “shaking.” Phenomenal, frankly. We love this. Fight the good fight, Erin! (Twitter)
Artist fills resin skulls with $1.3 million in shredded cash to protest cost of living crisis. Make artists starve again. (ArtNet)
Jemele Hill: Spotify should pay a black host (me) $100M. Spotify: no. (Outkick)
Whale swallows California kayakers (Twitter)
→ Some local Mad Max shit
Community policing comes to Brooklyn. For five days, police in Brownsville agreed to take the backseat to community violence interrupters. Left to the whims of the Brownsville “Safety” Alliance, one shop owner said “nobody feels too safe.” (NYT)
→ Feeling proud
Sitting Congressman’s Furry photo-op causes stir (Twitter)
The Department of Agriculture wants you to know it loves gay people (Twitter)
Bud Light, Target… Sesame Street? The Muppets are a polycule now, or something. People are mad, of course. (Twitter)
That’s all for now. Blow up our mentions, and catch us back here Thursday.